"mainly because they have nothing important to hit any more? the SA80 still doesnt work more than twice out of three, and the rest of the kit is not up to much.."
Is that 2 out of 3 fired rounds or 2 of 3 weapons. That would seem to be a *staggering* failure rate. About what I have been told HP has for some of its printer cartridges (although the consequences are rather more severe).
"They presided over the period of the hook up with Honda and the still popular R8 cars "
I got the impression the Honda deal (Superplastic forming tech?) was in the works for a long time before they turned up.
"The 'four horsemen of the apocalypse' that followed on after BMW had shredded the business and nicked all the worthwhile IP had little other option than to watch the remains of the company wither - but even then there was some worthy tin coming out of the doors."
You forgot to mention stuff their assorted pension funds with about £20m and behave as "4 Brummies with an overdraft" as IIRC one of them put it. Leaving the Chinese to pick up the pieces.
"A commonality of airframes would be a better idea than trying to keep 3 - 4 different systems running when really their job can be done with one type of aircraft and different fit-outs. true it means you get a plane that needs to be land and carrier capable, which adds complexity to an extent - but its less complexity than the systems required to run, maintain and support two airframe sets and their spare parts which are essentially doing the same job."
The idea that inspired the "Lightweight fighter Programme" of the US in the 1970s. Common aircraft between USAF and Navy. What became the F16 won and has been a major export success. The Navy did not trust the single engine reliability and went with what is the FA 18. the idea is excellent provided you can get over the nursery school mentality of "I want, I want, I want!"
The usual issues seem to be seawater corrosion of certain popular in land based aircraft, tailhooks need to be designed in from the *start* and carrier landings may be up to 20% higher sink rates than land (pitching of the flight deck). All *very* tough to add as retro fits.
"Im still not sure about the navy side of things - it strikes me that all these vaunted 'big ships' with their planes and helicopters and the like - are slow, greedy on fuel, and should it come to a showdown with someone like china pointless anyway since they will be prime targets within the first 30 minutes..."
Despite a 24 hour new cycle political and military things in the real world take *time* to develop (days to weeks) and last a *lot* longer than the news cameras will be around for. Being able to put a large secure base in place (and then move it to somewhere else ) is pretty handy. As for China. A shooting war with them would make *any* carrier fleet irrelevant except possibly the US.
"How about 6 mega submarines? expensive and complex, but possible, Think a vessel with nuclear power but running a breeder reactor so it can manufacture its own fuel. "
A common misconception. Breeders do *not* typically run on their own fuel. They were designed as part of a mixed reactor "fleet"
"think a vessel with separate hangars and systems for maybe 6 F-18 fighters with their assorted load outs and parts etc and a railgun type catapult. think combined gun and missile armament, along with decent sensor suites."
Aircraft carrying submarines have been tried from the 1920's (some in UK service). In the 50's the US tried one for their "Snark" cruise missile (no pop out wings like the Tomahawks). ICBM's proved better than *anything* at any normal air speed with wings (and still are for strategic defense)
BTW making large watertight doors that *stay* watertight at depth is tricky. IIRC the 1920's subs did not work well. They got something like a car ferry deck filled with water.
Subs with hangar decks filled with water crash dive *fast*. I suspect this is one that's still in Gerry Anderson's bottom drawer.
"Ironically it might save money to spend a lot more at one given time, in order to get savings down the road - but the chances of the government at the moment getting that...?"
Historically the UK MoD seems to prefer saving money short term (c3900m on carrier work) and then spend about £2.5Bn to catch up later.
Possibly one of the groups who have studied investment and development costs the most in the area of big projects has been Reaction Engines Ltd with regard to what it would take to get their Skylon concept into the air. Their side comments on patterns of spending in big (Multi billion dollar) projects buried in their various reports has made interesting reading.